Montana Attorney General Approves Language for Personhood-Abortion Ballot Prop
by Steven Ertelt
September 3, 2009
Helena, MT (LifeNews.com) — The attorney general’s office in Montana has approved the ballot language some pro-life advocates are supporting that would define unborn children as persons under the state constitution.
Some pro-life groups are not on board because they say the measure would be declared unconstitutional and that the focus should be on changing the Supreme Court so Roe v. Wade can be overturned.
Constitutional Initiative 102 would define a human "person" under the scientifically accurate notion of the beginning of human life taking place at conception, or fertilization.
The measure, meant for the 2010 elections, is the second effort to get a personhood proposition on the ballot and it requires 40,000 signatures from state residents. The first measure, in 2008, failed to get enough to qualify.
Rep. Wendy Warburton, a pro-life state legislator, is working with the Montana Pro Life Coalition and Personhood USA to organize the new petition gathering campaign.
"This effort is about loving mothers, loving babies, and building a society where every single one of us is valued, no matter how young," she said in June when the effort was launched.
Dr. Annie Bukacek, the head of the coalition, added, "Based on their intrinsic value and dignity, every human being, from the moment life begins, deserves equal protection under the law. This is the principle of personhood. It’s high time the people of Montana had an opportunity to vote on this fundamental human rights issue."
In order for CI-100 to make it on the November 2008 ballot, it needed 44,000 signatures from registered Montana voters.
Activists with Montana NARAL sent out a victory email to their supporters Monday night claiming the pro-life advocates failed to reach the number.
The group referred to its efforts at the polls during the primary election to persuade voters against signing the petitions.
"Thanks to supporters like you, more than 350 activists volunteered at polling places around the state to stop CI-100," the group said. "Montanans sent a message: A dangerous and divisive amendment like CI-100 has no place in our state."
State Rep. Rick Jore was behind the first constitutional amendment effort.
Jore also sponsored a bill in the state legislature to try to get the personhood amendment on the ballot and it died on a party-line vote.
As LifeNews.com reported, Right to Life of Montana endorsed the proposal after initially taking a neutral position.
And the Catholic bishops of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings and the Diocese of Helena said they had significant concerns about it.
They commended the pro-life principles behind CI-100 but issued a statement saying they have problems with the strategy behind it.
The bishops said they don’t believe CI-100 "is the most beneficial venue to pursue necessary change" and indicated a concern that it would be overturned in court and add to the pro-Roe v. Wade legal precedent.
Montana has long had problems with language from its constitution getting in the way of reducing abortions as it is one of a handful that have a privacy clause that its state supreme court has misinterpreted to mean that abortion should be legal without limits.
The Montana Supreme Court has previously ruled pro-life legislation unconstitutional on that basis despite federal courts saying the bills comply with federal constitutional requirements and similar bills allowed in other states.
Some pro-life advocates see the measure as not fully addressing the court’s decision and favor an amendment to make the privacy clause abortion neutral.
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